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Property Management 101: What to Do if Your Resident Has a Problem with Hoarding

There are people who have great difficulty discarding anything; they are termed hoarders. Hoarding is the obsession to collect and retain too many belongings. Most people throw away or recycle junk mail, egg cartons, greeting cards, gum wrappers, empty food cartons, and other paper products; hoarders have lost the ability to dispose of items they use. In addition, many collect not only material things but accumulate animals; very often, numerous cats are associated with hoarders.

This can be a costly habit for property owners if someone with this disability rents their property. Tenants who hoard can cause great property damage, infestations of pests, fire danger, and other health risks. It can also endanger the tenant's safety and that of other residents or neighbors.

What is hoarding?

It may not seem logical but it is more than just a bad habit, it is a crippling disease. Researchers estimate that 1 in 50 people are hoarders, with symptoms often developing early in childhood and progressing with age. That means there are millions of hoarders. Of course, this is not limited to renters; homeowners can have this same disability. What makes this more difficult for investors is that hoarders are a protected class under Fair Housing Laws. Therefore, it is not always simple to remove a tenant who hoards from a property.

It is important to recognize the difference between collecting and hoarding. Many people compile an unusual amount of a certain item or items. Their residences may seem cluttered because of this practice. However, there are three ways experts generally identify a hoarder.

  1. There is accumulation and failure to discard a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of very little value.
  2. They clutter their living space to the point that they cannot live in it properly.
  3. They have significant distress or impairment caused by the hoarding.

What can you do about it?

As your property management company, we find the best practice is to avoid hoarding by good screening. However, it may not always be possible to spot because a common trait of a hoarder is secrecy. In addition, they could have symptoms but the illness may develop over the course of their tenancy. If it does become evident that a tenant has developed this debilitating problem, we know that we must handle it carefully to avoid creating other serious problems.

It is important to remove the tenant from the property in order to protect the property, the resident, and others affected by their illness.

However, it is important to take sensible actions because hoarders are a protected class and the wrong steps can lead to liability.

  • First, we have to determine if a tenant is a hoarder and document their actions. Setting up a property inspection and assessing the situation is the first step. It is extremely important to comply with state law when setting up any property inspection.
  • If a tenant is a hoarder, it is important to consult legal counsel early to determine the best course of action because they are a protected class. Seeking the advice of an attorney early is particularly important if the tenant becomes difficult about moving from the property or is any type of hazard to themselves or others.
  • If a tenant is on a month-to-month tenancy, a property owner or manager can issue a standard notice to vacate. This can work if the tenant is reasonable about moving and does not see the action as retaliation.
  • If the tenant poses a health problem or has excessive animals, it may be possible to enlist the assistance of the health department or animal control.

Hoarding is a difficult problem and it is our goal to avoid this disorder whenever possible. However, if it does occur, we will contact you and pursue sensible steps to resolve the situation and protect your investment as quickly as possible.

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Topics: property management

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